I've been told there was a time before the echoes, before I could taste the sharp bite of steel razors on my tongue.
"Don't worry," they tell me. "It was all just a dream."
But it didn't feel like a dream, and this doesn't feel real, and I don't think I would want to wake up – even if I could. I'm constantly being peered at through glass, under a microscope, observed in my natural habitat. And on the days when the screaming just won't stop and they shiver with discomfort, forced to look the ugly face of reality square in the eye, sugary steel slips under brutalized skin and gifts me, finally, with the most joyful - senseless - narcotic embrace.
The nightmares always find me anyways, but that's fine with me, because the nightmares are stronger than flesh, more real than death, and for that small stretch of time the skin ripping off always grows back smooth and unmarred. It's a price, of course, but a small one to feel something real, to know that I'm not dead and stuck in a permanent limbo of pillows and white.
When even the straps on my hospital bed don't seem true and I can taste blood and bile on the back of my throat I know that all I have to do is scream: scream and make it real, scream and close my eyes. A simple needle sting for deadening poison to fill fragile capillaries with the essence of truth and then I won't have to pretend I'm okay; not any more.
I don't know when the echoes first started. It was a time far past the time when sleep meant rest, a time when razor blades littered hardwood floors and butterfly sutures were as common on the grocery list as milk. They weren't happy times, they weren't even safe times, but at least they were predictable and I wouldn't find myself brought to my knees, shaking and crying because the whispers just wouldn't stop.
I can see you there now, without ever even knowing your name, see your eyes burning holes into this page because you must know - get some twisted pleasure out of finding out - what happened to make this so.
I can hear you asking yourself "What on earth could be so horrible that this stupid boy would choose the scent of blood and burning hide, over the white washed walls of a hospital bed?" Well, either you already know, will come to find out yourself, or will never know. You may sit there, happy, thinking that this will never happen to you, or you can quiver at the undeniable truth that you have felt as I have, know as I know. It truly is all the same to me. Voyeur or fellow victim: it doesn't matter, because we all go to hell in the end. There is no god except the one we make and we all hung ours from the rooftops so very long ago.
If we are who we make ourselves to be is it my fault that I am like this? Am I to blame for letting her do these things to me?
When my father first found out what happened he slapped me on the shoulder.I didn't want to see his disappointed stare, him taking in the wreckage of my body like so many of my sister's battered dolls, time to be thrown away. He held my face steady, looked me in the eyes.
"Just shake it off." he rasped out. "Be a man."
After that day I never again saw him in my hospital room.
There really is something to be said for small blessings.